Injuries (non-acute, accident –related injuries) tend to stem from a lack of balance in the body. One of the key elements of Pilates training is the balancing of the body: balancing the left side of the body with the right, balancing the top with the bottom and balancing the front with the back. A good Pilates program can focus on realigning your body and activating muscles that are underused. For example: a great many runners put a great deal of stress on their quadriceps. Focus so much on the quadriceps may bring tension to the outside portion of the thigh and start to draw the tracking of the knee away from the midpoint of the body. As the body tries to right the problem, tension starts to develop in the knee joint, particularly around the ACL on the inside (medial) portion of the knee. With Pilates, balance can be brought to the quadriceps, adductors (inner thighs), and hamstrings (backs of the thighs) so that the tension on the knee is greatly reduced.
To maintain an ideal running form, the majority of the work is given over to the legs and, to a lesser extent, the arms. The torso will not propel you forward no matter how much you rock it side to side. So, ideally, the torso must remain stable throughout your run. This stability is achieved through a balance of the abdominal muscles – the Rectus Abdominus, inner and outer Obliques and, most important, the Tranverse Abdominus—and the muscles of the lower back—the Quadratus Lumborum and spinal erectors. Combine these muscles with the underused muscles of the pelvic floorand you are creating a very powerful torso that will remain stable throughout the duration of your run. Also, that torso stability will allow you to drop your center of gravity forward, creating forward momentum, without putting a great deal of pressure on your lower back.
You wouldn’t believe the number of terrific runners who are unable to touch their toes. There is a direct correlation between their flexibility and their rate of injury. Pilates offers you the opportunity to build functional strength through a wider range of motion. The key is eccentric muscle activation, when you focus on activating a muscle while you continue to lengthen it. It is this sort of activation and muscle work that originally drew the dance community to the work of Joseph Pilates in the 1940’s: dancers realized that they didn’t need to give up strength for flexibility or flexibility for strength.